The Government of Italy has invested over $14 million in the last one year on risk disaster management and sustainable development in West Africa.
The Ambassador of Italy to Nigeria, Mr Stefano De Leo said this at the inauguration of the ECOWAS Disaster Operation Centre in Abuja on Thursday, a project which the Italian government donated $200,000 towards.
De Leo said his country’s investment has been through the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
He said: “The Government of Italy is particularly proud of the cooperation in this sector with ECOWAS, United Nations Office for Disaster and Risk Reduction, International Center for Environmental Monitoring, and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Over the last year Italy has invested, through UNDRR, more than 14 million dollars to support a better understanding of risk, the real impact of disaster, how these disrupt the socio-economic system and the possibility for a sustainable development.”
The ambassador disclosed that the Italian government looked to increasing the strategic role of Africa in tackling global challenges, with great attention to the growing leadership of the African Union and its regional organisations.
The envoy revealed that Thursday event was dedicated to the Disaster Operation Centre of ECOWAS, the fourth centre of the African Multi-Hazard Early Warning and Action System (AMHEWAS) for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
He noted that the centre in ECOWAS would play a key role in multi-hazard monitoring and early warnings for floods, extreme weather, droughts, and food insecurity in the region.
He said: “The roadmap to establish a continental mechanism is still long, but the network of cooperation is widening.
“It is crucial to step up and to deepen relationships also in facing together the challenges of sustainable economic development, protection of climate change and policies for disaster reduction,” insisting that: “The close interconnection of all these challenges is evident to all of us.”
He stressed that event provided an important moment to reflect on specific commitments to take together to promote safer and resilient communities, adding that it also provided commitments to put in place an effective continental mechanism to enhance data access and exchange across the region and the continent.
In her remarks, ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs, Prof. Fatou Sow Sarr, expressed the gratitude of ECOWAS to the Italian government for the significant contribution and steadfast commitment to the project.
She said the centre would be linked to established centres in the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development – Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (IGAD- ICPAC) in Nairobi, and the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) in Niamey.
Sarr said: “We gather to mark a significant milestone – the inauguration of the Regional Disaster Operations Centre within our Department of Human Development and Social Affairs.
“This centre, a testament to the generous contributions of the Government of Italy, the CIMA Foundation, and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, is outfitted with the free, open-source platform, myDEWETRA, which will significantly enhance our capacity to monitor, analyse, and exchange disaster risk data.”
myDEWETRA is a real-time system for hydro-meteorological forecasting and monitoring.”
The commissioner said the commission had emerged as a vital aspect in driving Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063, in strengthening the regional ability to tackle cross-border challenges.
She said: “Through partnerships and collaborations, we have made considerable strides in supporting member states and fostering resilient communities.
“By 2030, we aspire to substantially augment the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information.”
On her part, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Mami Mizutori, said DRR required the contribution of all partners.
She further said all ECOWAS member states would be able to contribute and receive fundamental support, noting that.
“This effort would not have been possible without the generous support of the Government of Italy, to whom we are grateful.
“The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction is proud to have played a role in establishing this centre by providing both technical and staffing support and we will continue this support moving forward to help the centre reach its full potential.”
The UN representative said the establishment of the ECOWAS Disaster Operations Center, as a core element of the African Multi-Hazard Early Warning and Action System, was an important milestone in achieving the Early Warnings for All initiative.
She, however, said the UNDRR was committed to helping all countries achieve this level of resilience.
The Director-General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Mustapha Ahmed, who also spoke at the event, said management of disaster risks could not be actualised without an efficient coordination mechanism.
He noted that effective early warning systems for anticipatory early actions were needed.
Ahmed said: “The West African sub-region like any other Sub-Saharan Economic Groups is faced with different hazards scenarios that have posed serious threat to the human population, the environment, infrastructure, and means of livelihood based on the hazards manifestation into disasters that are trans-boundary in nature.. The establishment of the Centre in the region is quite commendable considering the location of West African sub-region in the Sahel Zone with its associated disturbing physical and human development indices.”
He insisted that: “Most of this area are characterized by fragile ecosystem and economy that are exacerbated by extreme weather conditions and climate change phenomenon, poverty, insecurity, political unrest, terrorism and banditry. These have undermined community resilience to shocks and stress with varying degree on demographic structure of the zone consisting of women, children, the elderly, people living with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.”